Well, my days in Mainz are really winding down – just a week left before I return home, and I have to say, it is certainly unbelievable how quickly a year has flown by! Well, not a year, two weeks shy to be exact, but that’s not the point! Either way, my semester ended about 2 or 3 weeks ago and i am still in the process of collecting all of my grades and taking care of some university affairs. After a heartfelt going away party for a bunch of my friends, as I am the 2nd to last of all my international friends to leave the city (my friends who live here are obviously excluded ), only being outlasted my my friend Megan from Memphis, my friend Lukas and I flew to Ireland for 9 days.
Now, Lukas and I both had a particularly stressful exam period, so we did virtually no planning for our trip – we just bumped into each other at work, as we work in the same office on campus, and decided to go after everything was finished! As we are on a budget, particularly limited, might I add, we had some interesting sleeping arrangements during our stay: a van for 3 days, a farmhouse for a night, and a barn loft for a night – we were woken up by rats in the morning after that night… just so you know what kind of a barn this was. One of the greatest things that you will find studying abroad is that you will make great friends all over the world, and this was the case in Ireland! My friend Julie is Irish, and when I told her that we would be there, she and her friend, Emma, drove down to where we were – Galway – where there was an arts and music festival taking place for the weekend. We traveled around with them for 3 days, and all slept in her conversion van! Now, this van was absolutely perfect for the four of us – except that we had to ‘put’ one person on the front bench seat each night. Now, I am by no means a tall guy, but the front bench seat was just about 5 inches too short for me, and about the same for Lukas when it was his turn – leaving us very grumpy in the morning, respectively. Either way, we had a great time visiting with them!
Then we were off for more adventures, stopping off for two days with Lukas’s brother – who is doing volunteer work this year with adults with mental disabilities on a farm out in the beautiful countryside. Now, the first night we could stay in the extra room in the farmhouse, but the second night a new volunteer arrived, and we were moved to the barn – let me clarify, barn loft used for storage, right about above the pigs… Anyway, mattresses were being stored there, so we pulled a few down and crashed for the night, but hey, it was way better than paying for a hostel!! And I was really great to spend a little time in the countryside! Nonetheless, Ireland was absolutely beautiful – we were hiking copious amount everywhere we could – just on our last day we hiked somewhere around 25 or 30 k. which is no small feat! It was absolutely one of the most beautiful places I have ever had the joy to see!
We returned to Mainz and prepared to drive to the Saarland, a very small German state on the French border, where Lukas’s parents were having a Sommerfest (summer festival). The Saarland is known for having a very difficult dialect – a dialect most Germans have a difficult time understanding – I was absolutely lost, to say the least! I was able to recognize some of the traits typical of German dialects from that general part of Germany (i.e. d->t, ch->sch, pf->pp, s->t etc etc etc) which was incredibly helpful, I even picked up a few words and phrases so Lukas could laugh at an American exchange student trying to speak SaarlÃ¤ndlisch. I absolutely love hearing different German dialects, and this really made my day! I do have to say, though, that this was one definitely the most difficult dialect I have ever heard and attempted to understand!
After getting back to Mainz I immediately began working as an assistant for the 62nd international German Summer Course here at the university. It is a month long program designed to help people from all over the world learn German! And we have learners of all levels, from not-a-word to German teachers. Every day is something new for me and all of the people with whom I work. On Monday my friend Laura and I are scheduled to hold a Stammtisch (a usually regular meeting for people to get out and discuss the matters of the world over a drink at their regular table) for all of the participants who are interested, getting them out to explore the city of Mainz at a few local places. Last week we worked to move all of the students into their dorms, brought them to their first day of classes, gave them a city tour and tried to help them with all of the other odds and ends that they needed to make this as productive as it could be! I am working for this program, by the way, because one of my bosses from the last two semesters, Frau KÃ¼per, is the director of the program, and asked me to be an assistant. Oh yeah, a friend of mine who is doing an internship with an online editorial even wrote an article about us and interviewed a few students, Frau KÃ¼per, and myself!
Otherwise I have been maintaining a relatively high level of stress/business preparing to go back home, i.e. doing all of the thing you have to do before you move out of a country: canceling my health insurance and bank account, moving all of my stuff out, registering with the city, returning all of the (many many many) things I have borrowed over the year, and of course, loads of goodbyes! I will be flying back to the States on the 14th and trying to take care of everything before classes start again – but I have to say, after how stressful this semester has been – like, Russian exams written in German stressful – I am looking forward to being home for a few days of relaxation, though honestly I don’t know if I will have any!! After all, I have to move back to Louisville (a BIG thanks to my wonderful sister Corinne for finding me an apartment!), get a cell phone, insurance, and a slew of other banal minutiae that will consume my life for a few weeks haha.
I am, however, very excited that my friend Thorsten will be studying in Louisville next year! And I really hope that he will have as good and rewarding a time as I did!! I can’t say how thankful I am for having been given this opportunity to study and live here! Betty and David Jones, Herr and Frau Boel, the Sister Cities Organization, Allie Goatley, Dr. Joy Carew, Virginia Honoso, Dr. Hutcheson, Dr. Pat Condon, my family and EVeRYONE else in Louisville who have helped make this possible, without whom we never could have revived this wonderful exchange program (I am the first UofL student to do it in 5 years)!!! I owe you all my deepest, most heartfelt gratitude! Not to mention all of those in Mainz who have helped make this the most successful year possible: Herr Henkel-von Klass, Frau KÃ¼per, Dr. Britta Feyerabend, Frau Ursula Bell-KÃ¶hler and her husband, Herr Bell, Frau Karst with the whole Freundschaftskreis Mainz-Louisville, all of my ‘path-finders’ and everyone else!
I owe you all so much, THANK YOU! And I look forward to seeing you again!